Well, yesterday I competed in the St James Mountain Sports Stampede Ultra. Originally this race was going to be 50km’s, but due to the ‘weather-bomb’ that had hit the South Island and raised the rivers, the race was changed to a different course which was 10km’s longer.
After just returning from a holiday overseas, both dad and I were a little apprehensive about this race as our training leading up to it wasn’t too ideal! It’s hard to find trails in a country full of roads and deserts! We entered anyway with the thought that it would also be a good test for the upcoming Old Ghost Ultra 85km at the end of February.
After a quick visit to registration in the township of Hanmer Springs on Friday night, we made our way up to the St James Homestead where we would spend the night. Gear ready, alarms set, we settled down for the night. It only felt like a couple of minutes, but 7 hours later we arouse to the dark and cold morning. Breakfast was half a watermelon and an OSM bar each – I honestly think that this is the perfect breakfast before an ultra!
Friends of ours, Stephanie and George were racing as well. George in the Stampede 60km and Steph in the Homestead 20km. We met them on their way up to the Stampede start line and caught a ride in their warm car. In the cold, we waited, making nervous trips to the toilet and quick checks of the DOC map in the car park! It was also great to meet Ian and Emma who were participating in both the 60km and the 20km!
Then, like that, the race started. It seemed slow to start off with, but within the first 5kms, as we started the climb up Mailings Pass the runners started to spread out. As we made it over the pass, the St James valley showed its real beauty as the mountains stood above us in the clouds. We followed the four-wheel drive track down from the pass, along the raging river and into the first aid station at 17km. By now dad had a five-minute lead on me, and as I came into the aid station they told me “…he was gonna wait, but thought he might prove his manhood first…”! I chuckled and continued running!
From here we followed the river for 25km. Passing huts, crossing bridges and even climbing steep hills – the legs were starting to hurt! By 30kms into the race I’d worked out that I was in 6th place out of 20 runners, which I thought for a 16-year-old, wasn’t too bad. It’s amazing what you can occupy your mind with for 3 hours!
With many huts and bridges along the way, it was perfect to fuel up with an OSM (mostly chocolate… sometimes apricot) every time I arrived at a different landmark! It seemed to work well and I never felt too hungry! The landmarks included swing-bridges over the raging river, huts and even very steep climbs!
With the change in course, St James Mountain Sports had set up an alternative finish at 45km for those who didn’t want to continue and finish the full 60kms. After a steep climb, an aid station and a swing bridge, I arrived at the 45km finish in about 5:10 hours and 6th place. With the option of finishing here, I asked to see how many in front of me had continued to finish the full 60km. The answer? “Just your dad…”. And so I was the second person to continue in the full 60km ultra.
It was a hard slog along a four-wheel drive track to the last aid station where I found dad had waited for me. He asked whether I still wanted to continue… Of course I did! It was only 7 km’s to the finish and there was a pretty good chance to claim my first overall win of an ultra. We climbed up Bull Gully and slowly made our way down to the Homestead. Yellow bibbed (Stampede 60km Ultra) runners were slowly creeping up on us, and we both broke into a slow jog for the last 3kms to the Homestead.
Finally, after 60.5km, 1000 metres of climbing and 7:29:28 hours we both came into claim 1st place equal in the Stampede 60km Ultra. What a day! My longest run to date and my first outright win of a race (with my No. 1 training partner)!
And so just like that… Another event finished and I can now move my focus on to the next one. That is the Old Ghost Ultra in one months’ time! Thank you to OSM NZ for their support with my racing – your bars really do make me go that extra bit further! Also thanks to dad, St James Mountain Sports, Stephanie and George, James Crockett for the photos (check out his Facebook page) and everyone who helped put on the race. What a day… Here’s to next year!
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